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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

At the end of the 2014 season, the AFL reviewed the format and operation of the Match Review Panel and made some sweeping changes. In an effort to bring a more game-savvy view to infractions, four new members have been appointed to the panel. They are recently retired players Luke Ball and Brad Sewell as well as past players Daniel Harford, Nathan Burke and Michael Christian. Christian and Harford have enjoyed success in the media. Burke has been a regular columnist for the magazine Inside Football for several years as well as a board member at St Kilda for the past seven years.

AFL General Manager Football Operations Mark Evans said the League was delighted with the appointments, pointing out that there were four premierships and 900 games of experience between the quartet. In making the announcement Evans said "They are outstanding candidates to assess, on football terms, the incidents that occur ... and to make a deliberation on whether a player should face any penalty  ... The panel mixes recently retired players ... who have strong experience of the modern game, alongside Michael and Nathan who each have more than three decades of experience".

Under the revamp, three of the four panel members would rule on incidents each week, with the make-up of the panel regularly altering through the season. A chairman would not be appointed, with a majority 2-1 or 3-0 ruling on each incident to determine whether a charge was laid. Other changes previously announced:
All offenses will now be categorized as fines or weeks of suspension, no longer using any reference to base demerit points;
The elimination of carry over points on any offense;
Conduct will now be graded in two categories only, ­intentional or careless;
The MRP will issue fines, two game and three game suspensions, with more serious offenses referred to the Tribunal;
Under the bad record provision, only one additional week will be tacked on to a penalty;
Early plea discounts will still be in effect but the good record provision will also be eliminated;
Brownlow Medal eligibility will be based on whether or not a player is suspended;
Low level offenses will incur fines but third-time offenders will face suspension;
The MRP will retain the capacity to upgrade impact where there is the potential to cause injury
.

The League has told Christian and Harford that if their media commitments interfere with their MRP duties or they find themselves with a conflict of interest, they will have to consider stepping down from the MRP. As media people, they will need to be careful regarding any on-file incidents pending with the MRP or Tribunal which might come up for discussion as it would be inappropriate for them to comment on pending cases until after the MRP and/or Tribunal decisions are handed down.

The AFL also announced that Daniel Harford, Shane Wakelin and Paul Williams had joined the Tribunal jury as new members, as part of the rotation of members to sit on any cases taken to hearings through the season.

Source: theage.com.au, afl.com.au, Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release

Article last changed on Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 8:59 AM EST


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